Personalization vs. Customization: How Marketers Can Deliver What Consumers Want

Posted on by Chief Marketer Staff

By Alex Lustberg

According to a new survey by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), sponsored by Lyris, broad and excessive personalization undermines the effectiveness of marketing messages.  In fact, 70% of consumer respondents agreed with the statement that “attempts at personalization are superficial,” and 33% cited it as one of their top annoyances. Yet, the survey also reveals that personalization is the second most popular marketing strategy among marketing executives. What gives?

The EIU survey also found that while consumers are jaded by superficial attempts at personalization, they do appreciate customized offers. Nearly 20% said including details like references to previous transactions makes them feel valued. Additionally, almost half (45%) of the marketing executives surveyed stated that they lack the capacity for analyzing customer data and it’s becoming a major obstacle to implementing more effective strategies, like customization.

Clearly, a gap exists between what consumers want and what marketers are able to deliver.

So how do we move from turning our customers off with communications based on simplified personal attributes (name, age, gender, and so on) to engaging them with content that is customized according to what their online behaviors tell us?

I suggest a three-pronged approach to closing the gap:

Understand what matters: There is a wealth of data that marketers can access, but not every data point needs to be scrutinized.  Start by considering data that allows you to create enticing and relevant messaging that anticipates your customer’s next action and elicits the desired response. For example: Who is opening your emails, and what are they doing next? What information can you glean about their response to prior promotions and purchase history?

Create meaningful interactions: Examine your customers’ behaviors across all channels, not just email.  What are they “Liking” on social networks? Where are they “checking in” on their mobile devices? What products have they looked at on your website? This insight can help you understand your customers’ path to purchase and suggest opportunities for creating interactions with them that are more relevant and meaningful.

Support insight with best practice digital marketing: Data-driven insight is only as valuable as your ability to use it effectively. Creating customized content is one thing. Making sure it reaches your intended audience when, where, and how it’s supposed to is another. Applying digital marketing best practices like A/B split testing, mobile optimization, dynamic content, re-engagement, and click-level reporting and tracking propels the hard work of customization to its ultimate goal – reaching your customers and incentivizing them to act.

By combining a deep understanding of the customer journey with digital marketing best practices, marketers will be able to deliver customized experiences their buyers care about.

Alex Lustberg is CMO at Lyris.

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